NORWALK, Conn. — Alexandra Estrella, Ed. D, has been chosen to be Norwalk’s next Superintendent of Schools.
“Dr. Estrella, a first-generation Latina-American, is a visionary, innovative, forward-thinking leader that does not accept the status quo regarding scholar development and learning opportunities,” the Board of Education said in a statement. “An educator with over 20 years of experience, Dr. Estrella has spent the last seven years in the role of superintendent for Community School District Four in East Harlem, New York.”
The statement is included in the packet for Thursday’s BoE virtual meeting, where the Board is expected to vote to approve the appointment. She would become superintendent on July 1.
Estrella would replace Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski, who took the role in mid-2015. Adamowski has served out his five-year contract, becoming Norwalk’s first stable leader in a role that featured much turnover before his arrival – six superintendents in eight years, including two interim supers.
She would also be the first female superintendent since Susan Marks resigned in July 2012 after leading for two years, and the first non-Caucasian since Manny Rivera exited in January 2015 after 1.5 years on the job.
“Part of the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE), District Four comprises twenty-three schools serving approximately 13,500 students grades 3-K through 12. During the 2019-2020 academic school year, she received three proclamations from community legislative officials highlighting her relentless commitment to improving the lives of children and families in the East Harlem community,” the statement reports.
“She started her career as a science teacher in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, and during her tenure, she designed curricula that supported scholars to develop their observational, critical, and analytical skills. She founded the first STEM fair within the school and challenged middle school students to take advanced science courses that allowed them to earn high school and NYS Regents credit. In 2008, Dr. Estrella founded Esperanza Preparatory Academy, a dual-language middle school in East Harlem, NY. In 2011, she proposed and obtained approval to expand the school to grades 6-12. She acquired a number of bilingual and technology grants that supported the school in the development of its dual- language program. She also started one of the first 6-12 special education inclusion programs in the City of New York.
“As a direct reflection of her support to schools and her strategic leadership at NYCDOE District Four, she increased the District’s New York State ELA scores by 22% and mathematics by 20%. In partnership with Hunter College, she acquired a multimillion-dollar grant from New York Trust that allowed the district to establish an intensive early childhood literacy intervention program that propelled State scores by 18%. “Graduation rates have increased from 70% to 84%. Through the refinement of curricula leveraging Columbia University’s Teachers College Readers and Writers Project and Harvard University’s Advanced Literacies research, she narrowed the achievement gap for multilingual learners by increasing literacy proficiency by over 20% for the majority of students by the time they transitioned to become former multilingual learners.
“Dr. Estrella is known as an instructional leader who focuses on building the capacity of leaders and teachers. She sets clear, measurable goals while utilizing an investigative lens to identify problems of practice that can be targeted to improve student achievement. Through supervisory coaching and the support of established professional learning communities, school leaders learned to develop theories of action that lead to systematic change and improvement of student outcome measures.
“She has enhanced broadband accessibility for students through multi-million dollar grants and partnerships with Apple and Verizon. During her tenure, District Four schools have also enriched science curricula and exposed students to healthy eating habits through hydroponics and rooftop gardens, while others utilized the Hudson River to learn about oyster preservation and local ecosystems. She also partnered with Dr. Mark Brackett, Director of Yale University’s Center for Emotional Intelligence, to develop teacher pedagogy, school leader capacity and efficacy around social-emotional learning using the Mood Meter and other RULER strategies.
“As a superintendent, Dr. Estrella has also focused on supporting school leaders and staff to develop their capacity to support culturally and linguistically diverse learning communities, while building culturally responsive environments. For the past several years, she has engaged school leaders in implicit bias and culturally-responsive trainings, solving for disproportionality and achieving equity that resulted in suspension reduction and increased achievement for all students. She is a firm believer of inclusive-learning models. She opened several special education inclusion programs throughout the district and housed the only dual language NEST programs in the city, which she expanded during her tenure to serve additional grades.
“Dr. Estrella is passionately committed to educational equity. She believes in the power of schools to change lives, and is resolute that no child should be kept from attaining his or her dream because of obstacles that can be overcome.
“Dr. Estrella earned a doctorate of education with honors from Sage College of Albany, a masters degree in Science Education from Pace University and a masters degree in educational leadership from Baruch College. She holds a bachelor of science from Fordham University Marymount, where she double majored in biology and chemistry. Dr. Estrella has been certified by the Connecticut State Department of Education as a superintendent of schools and for intermediate administration and supervision.
“Dr. Estrella and her husband have three children, fourteen-year-old twin sons and an eighteen-year-old daughter. Their twins will start high school at Norwalk Public Schools in August 2020 and their daughter will enter her first year of college.”
“I am delighted to welcome Dr. Estrella to Norwalk Public Schools,” BoE Chairwoman Sarah LeMieux said in an email. “Her specific experience, combined with her thoughtfulness, diligence and inclusivity are going to be huge assets to us as we navigate through this uncertainty. In her work in the New York City Public school system, she has already accomplished many of the things we’re trying to do here in Norwalk, in terms of closing the achievement gap, increasing equity, social emotional education and bilingual education. She’s the right fit for Norwalk, and I couldn’t be happier that she’s joining us.”
Story updated at 9:15 p.m. to include a comment from Sarah LeMieux.